Climate and Landscape
There has been much excitement at Hoanib about the weather. Serious rain fell in the catchment areas and even Hoanib received some rain, which wasn’t expected. In all, 8 mm of rain fell in three days!
Rain is a rarity in the desert and it seems like both the fauna and flora recognised this. Even with rain and moisture present in the desert, some of the rocks and hills do not show any significant change as water is not stored easily in this ancient metamorphic rock. These rocks are finely compacted through extreme temperatures and pressure, and cannot store water. The Hoanib River is a little longer than 200 kilometres with its catchment area only 17 000 square kilometres, but this year rain dominated the area for almost two weeks. As a result, an incredible amount of water came down the river. Short bursts of flowing water were observed for three to four days, which is absolutely exceptional.
With the water comes the challenge of logistics, getting produce to camp and going on game drives; even for the animals. It is also noticeable how quickly the water dries up once the sun is out. The clay in the riverbeds cracks quickly as the water evaporates, leaving behind untouched and beautiful cracked earth.
Desert-adapted giraffe add great perspective to the scenery along the river banks and in the valleys where these large animals seem overwhelmed by their environment. Springbok were seen in abundance and watching small groups always promises some sort of entertainment. Males are in a constant battle for dominance of the harem and the dominant male is always observant of competition, herding the group of females and their young away from other males. They have also been seen chasing away black-backed jackals.
Baby springbok were bounding around all over the place, along with the occasional baby giraffe. It seems all the animals in the Hoanib area planned to have babies as the rain arrived, as if they knew it would be a wet year for the desert.
The elephants started moving east as the water flowed down the Hoanib. They retreated to the mountains where certain vegetation has become more sought-after because it has green leaves, but also a little more moisture as well. When they did find themselves in the river most would indulge and get soaked before they dusted themselves off along the banks. They have not been seen in about a week and are not likely to return in a long while as they enjoy the fresh, young vegetation growing in the hills.
Guides spotted an oryx digging the soil around a bone before proceeding to chew on it. Oryx, like most herbivores, practice a behaviour called osteophagia where they eat or chew on bones. This is believed to help them acquire minerals that they are unlikely to find in their everyday diet.
Gregarious behaviour is often observed as different species browse together – like baboons and oryx feeding on an acacia together. This is an advantage as they are more likely to spot a predator as everyone is on the lookout.
Birds and Birding
A couple of Rüppell’s korhaan males were seen trying to impress by flapping around the females, hoping to entice some desert love. Rüppell’s are usually seen in pairs and sometimes with their chick. It is not often you will find two or three males all together.